FORESTRY England has revealed that some of the campsites in the New Forest could be shut or relocated to protect the environment.

It comes after the area's leading conservation group called for the closure of three campsites that boast a total of 970 pitches - Hollands Wood, Longbeech and Denny Wood.

Friends of the New Forest (FONF) claims the sites are damaging habitats and disturbing wildlife.

Speaking at the Verderers’ Court, FONF member Brian Tarnoff said Forestry England was failing to meet its obligations under the Habitat Regulations by allowing the problem to continue.

READ MORE: Call to move campsites to protect New Forest animals

Other organisations worried about the issue include the Commoners' Defence Association, which represents the owners of the ponies and cattle that roam the area.

Charlotte Lines, who chairs the Association said: "An increased urbanisation of these campsites is changing the very fabric of the Forest."

Highlighting incidents involving animals and campers, she said the number and seriousness of the accidents appeared to be increasing, adding: "These have the potential to threaten the continuing practice of commoning."

READ MORE: New rules aim to curb the impact pop-up campsites in the New Forest

A Forestry England spokesperson said it was working with other organisations to ensure that campsite management plans were implemented properly.

They added: "We will work with local stakeholders to find a sustainable solution and this will include considering a range of options including closure or relocation for some."

District councillor David Harrison said: "There is absolutely no way that camping can take place without causing significant harm to the delicate eco-systems that constitute ancient woodlands.

"No ecologist worth their salt would allow this activity to take place in these highly-valued habitats if it was being considered today.

"The fact it is still happening is a legacy issue, a failure to face up to the fact that real harm is being caused in a variety of ways.

"I have been pressing for the matter to be addressed. Of course, there will be opposition - these campsites are very popular and people will argue that they have been enjoying them for years.

"Although the Forest is a small National Park, there are still lots of areas where camping could be relocated to without the harm caused to ancient woodland habitats."

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